Our NEW Homeschooling Space

We’ve been in our new home for six weeks now, and today I’m excited to share a tour of our homeschooling space! The girls and I love having a dedicated place downstairs in the basement for all of our learning materials, though using the “dining room” in our previous apartment met our needs for several years!

(Please note that this post does include affiliate links at no additional cost to you.)

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We bought a few new pieces of furniture from Target (three of these and the two white bookshelves we already had) in order to really spread out. The girls are mature enough that I don’t feel the need to limit/rotate toys on a weekly basis anymore, though some of the larger items are stored in their clothes closet upstairs.

These three shelves below are where the majority of Kate’s preschool items are held. The totes hold various sensory bin items and manipulatives like buttons, Unifix cubes, pom poms, etc.

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The two shelves on the far right are where Addie’s chapter books and math items are kept. She also has a shelf for all of her textbooks so items can be grabbed easily and stored when not in use. Our large globe is hanging from a hook in the old-school “foam” tile ceiling.

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Both of the black IKEA desks have been around for several years–Kate’s has been sitting in storage in our previous apartment, but she decided she wanted to have a desk of her own when we moved in.They each keep a plastic shoebox full of school supplies (crayons, pencils, markers, scissors, glue stick, etc.) sitting on the edge of the their desks, which makes it easy for both girls to work independently.

Addie also has a large copy-paper box full of paper, ribbon, material, etc., so she can often be found “crafting” at her desk when we aren’t doing schoolwork.

These windows look out on our backyard/side-yard, where we get lots of mid-day sun. This room is definitely the brightest and most cheerful place to be!

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Our school calendar area (similar) can be found in this little nook by the door. There’s also a large bookshelf filled with more toys tucked against the stairwell.

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Kate loves to jump on the trampoline during the day, and she also has the neatest little play house that my mother-in-law made to fit over a card table.

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Having a dedicated learning space down in the basement has made a big difference for our homeschool productivity! We still have a few more finishing touches to put on the rest of the house–I can’t wait to share more pictures with you soon!

More Biographies for Young Readers

Great biographies for young readers from Lone Star Signers!

One of Goodreads’ most helpful features is the “related books/recommendations.” Whenever the girls and I stumble across a great book at the library, we like to follow up with similar books.

After enjoying fantastic biographies about Roget, artist Horace Pippin, and poet William Carlos Williams by Jen Bryant and illustrator Melissa Sweet earlier this year, we recently read Brave Girl: Clara and the Shirtwaist Makers’ Strike of 1909 (also illustrated by Sweet).

Great biographies for young readers from Lone Star Signers!

I love to read biographies in a picture book format because the author and illustrator work so closely together to bring the time period to life! Here are a few other juvenile biographies that we have really been enjoying:

  1. Who Says Women Can’t Be Doctors? (Elizabeth Blackwell)
  2. Miss Moore Thought Otherwise (Anne Carroll Moore, librarian)
  3. The Boy Who Loved Math (Paul Erdos)
  4. Manfish (Jacques Cousteau)
  5. Noah Webster and His Words

Great biographies for young readers from Lone Star Signers!

Have you read any great children’s biographies?

Homeschooling: Why We Stay Home on Mondays

Our local Classical Conversations community started back up three weeks ago, and we were not there. I may have already alluded to our decision not to participate in CC this year, but I thought the decision warranted a separate blog entry.

But, even when all the signs were pointing to YES, there was a small, quiet voice inside my heart saying no.  No to “one more” activity.  No to being away from home for one whole day every week.  No to the hustle and bustle of getting up and out the door early each and every Monday. (There’s a reason we homeschool, after all.) --Why We Stay Home on Mondays, from Lone Star SignersAs I’ve mentioned in our previous posts about our Classical Conversations experiences (Why Classical Conversations Works for Us, Classical Conversations & Kindergarten, Classical Conversations Review Game), the program was a great fit for Addie during her Kinder and 1st grade school years. She has a quick mind, a gift for memorization, and a personal drive that are all well-suited for classical education. We also adored the families in our CC community, so choosing not to return this school year was a difficult decision for all of us.

But, even when all the signs were pointing to YES, there was a small, quiet voice inside my heart saying no.

No to “one more” activity.

No to being away from home for one whole day every week.

No to the hustle and bustle of getting up and out the door early each and every Monday. (There’s a reason we homeschool, after all.)

Homeschooling: Why We Stay Home on Mondays

As an introvert mama looking for margin, I realized how important it is to our family culture to carve out pockets of time when we just stay home. (I just love this post from Meghann at Practically Hippie.)

Our girls have group activities on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Fridays–so I’m not worried about socialization issues. We get a big chunk of our weekly work out of the way before the fun playdate invitations start rolling in, which ensures that we stay on-track with our lesson plans. Staying home on Mondays means that the rest of our week is more organized and much less rushed.

Staying home on Mondays is working for our family this school year. What changes have you made to bring more margin into your family’s schedule?

Homeschooling: Kicking off the 2015 School Year with NEW Routines

If I’ve learned anything in our previous three years of homeschooing, it’s this: flexibility is key!

Our day-to-day schedule has changed so much since I wrote these previous posts about our morning and afternoon routines. What works for our family might not work for yours, but I’ve found it’s helpful to read how other homeschoolers structure their day!

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Check out our 2015 Homeschool Schedule and Routines at LoneStarSigners.com!Lots of homeschooling/homemaking blogs stress the importance of mom getting up before the kids. You’re not going to get that here. 😉 My own natural rhythm leans strongly to the night owl side of the continuum, so this post from Kirsten Oliphant was really encouraging for me.

Our family time starts at 8:00 a.m. with a little happy music casting from YouTube to our T.V. These days, we’re rotating between the Happy (Despicable Me/minions) video, anything from the Okee Dokee Brothers, and/or Elizabeth Mitchell. One song usually gets both girls running to the “stage” in the living room. After the song, we have a quick family “meeting” to run through the day’s events and say good-bye to dad.

The girls have until 8:45 to get dressed, get brushed (hair and teeth), make their beds, and eat breakfast. Our line leader gets to choose music for breakfast time and I set the iPad alarm to go off at 8:40 so they have time to clear the table and wash their hands. (I’ll be cleaning up the kitchen, eating my breakfast, starting a load of laundry, etc.)

Math will start promptly at 8:45 with our calendar time. Kate (nearly 4) does really well keeping up with Addie as we go over days of the week, months of the year, skip counting, and more, which is one of the reasons why Saxon math works for us.

Four mornings out of the week, we’ll move directly from calendar to those “must-do” parts of our weekly curriculum: math, grammar, and spelling. We also have lots of “fun” activities: science, history, geography, art, typing, and Five in a Row. I haven’t decided how we’ll loop through all of those subjects, but I’m sure we’ll find a flow. My goal is to be done with all of our second-grader’s “must-do”s by 11:15. (See more about our 2nd grade curriculum choices and how I plan for science/social studies.)

Preschool note: We include Kate in any of Addie’s school activities that she wants to participate in. She’s really good about playing quietly/independently when she craves a little down-time. Her learning style is mostly auditory/kinesthetic, and she loves sensory play and tinkering with loose parts. We’ve chosen Five in a Row for her preK curriculum, so I plan to let her lead the way when it comes to tablework. 

Check out our 2015 Homeschool Schedule and Routines at LoneStarSigners.com!

On Wednesday and Friday mornings, we’ll host signing classes. Depending on how her school work is going, Addie will either work independently at the table in the adjoining room, play quietly in her room, or help me in class.

I believe strongly in learning through play, so if the girls have not had unstructured time yet–it will happen before lunch. (My introvert alarm is usually sounding off by this point, anyway.) At 12:30, we’ll reconvene for a little “brain break”–praise videos from YouTube and our daily devotion. The girls will help me get lunch on the table, and just like at breakfast, our daily line leader will choose the music for mealtime.

A note about music: Raising two auditory learners has taught me the power of music throughout the day. We have a handful of iTunes radio stations that the girls can choose from (classic Sesame Street, PBS kids/Daniel Tiger, Music Together, etc.). I cannot tell you how many helpful things my girls have learned from this well-curated collection of music!

By 1:30, both girls need to be finished with lunch and their afternoon chores, and heading to their room for rest. Kate still naps two hours every day (hallelujah!), and Addie needs to lay down for about an hour of quiet time. For the second hour of Kate’s nap, she will have a fun, independent activity to complete. (Read more about raising an extraverted child as an introverted parent.)

At 3:30, Addie’s “quiet time” will be over, giving us a chance to do any one-on-one work that needs to be finished! Kate will wake up and want a snack. To kick off the second half of the day, we’ll curl up on the couch for read-aloud time at 3:45, and then the girls will have free-play time until dinner. (Since the hottest part of the year is just arriving, we’ll spend most of the day indoors, with lots of evening trips to the pool as a family!)

So there you have it–our “ideal” routine for this school year! How does it differ from your family’s routine?

Homeschooling: 2nd Grade Curriculum Choices

Can you believe it? We are two weeks away from our first day “back to school.” We’re trying a six-weeks-on/one-week-off schedule this school year, so that means our first six weeks will run from July 27th-September 4th. Personally, I’m excited to get the first chunk of learning out of the way during the hottest weeks of the year!

See our curriculum choices for our second grader over at Lone Star Signers!

Here are our curriuculum choices for 2nd grade (2015-2016):

After a lot of consideration and conversation, we have decided to skip the community day aspect of Classical Conversations this year. This is Kate’s last year in preschool, and I want to be sure that we use this special time focusing on all the things that really matter to our family culture right now: spending time together outside, reading books aloud, visiting special places, etc. I want to continue savoring the simple things into the fall–and that means that we’ll be starting out each week at home rather than at CC.

Please note that Lone Star Signers does use affiliate links, but we only recommend items that our family has used and loved. Thank you for supporting our small business.

In planning our lessons for all the fun “extras,” I have pulled some ideas and resources from our Classical Conversations Foundations guide. We will continue to learn about artists and musicians, practice our timeline song, and complete science and art activities that go along with everything that we’re learning. I also utilized our Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills and the terrific book What Your Second Grader Needs to Know to build a great year full of science, history, geography, and fine arts! (Read more about my planning process here.)

See our curriculum choices for our second grader over at Lone Star Signers!For math, we will be continuing on with Saxon Math 2 (link). It works for our family, and I love how much Kate picks up just from playing nearby while we do our lessons. I’ve written more about our reasons here: Why Saxon Math Works for Us!

For language arts, we’re continuing with First Language Lessons (link), Spelling You See (link), and our eclectic mish-mash of reading library books and writing/illustrating our own books for fun. We’re also hoping to put together a Young Author’s club for the fall.

I’m looking forward to this school year–what curriculum choices have you made?

Like this post? Read about our 1st grade curriculum choices here!

This post has been linked up at iHomeschoolNetwork’s 7th Annual “Not” Back-to-School Blog Hop.